The Henderson Homes public inquiry on the refusal of 6 further homes on the paddock between 51/61 Main Road ended yesterday with Closing Statements from the three parties.
The hearing, held in Congleton Town Hall, had been adjourned since October having taken longer than anticipated, but it will still be some weeks yet until we hear of the Inspector’s final decision.
In short…and not all inclusive….
Cheshire East Council
Scott Lyness, barrister for Cheshire East, outlined the international importance of the Jodrell Bank Observatory – the 3rd largest steerable telescope on the planet, “recognised by the international scientific community as one of the world’s major radio astronomy facilities”. He stated that its “globally important operations can only take place at the leading edge of science if their exceptional characteristics are protected” and pointed out that the six homes would be close to JBO in a direction that the Lovell is often pointed to to conduct its “internationally significant pulsar work” and are clearly in breach of JBO policies as well as Goostrey’s Neighbourhood Plan.
Mr Lyness pointed out that the proposed dwellings would cause the quality of data to take a “significant step downwards”, as detailed in Professor Garrington’s evidence of harm – which was unchallenged throughout the inquiry – and would produce a “hotspot” of interference. He also described the expression ‘relatively minor’ used in planning objections; explaining that a relatively minor numerical change “in no way means that the impact…on the work of JBO would be minor”; Professor Garrington acknowledged that the term does not fully reflect JBO’s concern. (for instance, in pulsar timing measurements, small increases in interference can have a much larger non-linear effect on the quality of the data).
Mr Lyness also explained that the 39 new houses [Blackberry Gardens] will “in practice be part of Goostrey and contribute to its sustainability and viability”.
Goostrey Parish Council
Goostrey PC summed up their position; that the proposal breaches several N’hood Plan policies covering JBO and density. The PC referred to all parties at the Inquiry being in agreement that the proposal will impair the efficiency of the telescope and the NP’s policy is very clear – “There is no leeway, no ‘unless’ , no latitude”.
The appellant (Henderson Homes) proposes to use mitigation measures however the PC pointed out that mitigation had already been taken into account in Prof. Garrington’s calculations – resulting in the ITU threshold being exceeded by a factor of 100. The Professor had “told the inquiry that even small increases in interference will have larger and larger effects as radio astronomers make more and more sensitive observations. In that scenario it is easy to see why an exceedance factor of 100 is so significant.”
Goostrey’s unique position as an LSC was also pointed out, the CELPS stating ‘In the case of Goostrey’…’it is anticipated that development needs will largely be provided for in Holmes Chapel’. In addition to the new 39 dwellings [Blackberry Gardens] the PC pointed to the fact that many existing houses will become available during the life of the Plan, so “these 6 appeal houses therefore cannot be regarded as needed for Goostrey to retain its vitality.”
The PC also highlighted that the outcome of this appeal is being “eagerly awaited by small landowners and developers” – “allowing this appeal could open the flood gates”; a member of the public had in fact supported the appeal saying they would re-apply if the appeal is successful. Others may similarly re-apply, as well as other propositions that the PC are aware of but are not yet formal applications “in the knowledge that the developments could potentially harm the JBO telescopes.”
Barrister John Hunter for Henderson Homes then gave their closing statement: covering the ins and outs of Goostrey being a Local Service Centre and the “residual requirement for at least” 27 homes, problems with affordability for younger households, the “disproportionate number of elderly residents” and its “consequential impacts on the vitality of the settlement” [..non taken! LG] .
Mr Hunter opined that the 6 homes would “assist significantly in helping achieve the housing requirement” of the local area and the district as a whole, and the inclusion of 2 affordable homes should carry “significant weight”. He said there was “no dispute” that JBO should be afforded “reasonable protection” and no dispute that the “modest additional interference” of the proposed scheme would give rise to some impairment. “However, that does not mean that any level of impairment is necessarily unacceptable”, he added. Mr Hunter pointed to the JBO response to the initial consultation of “relatively minor” which should therefore only be given ‘moderate’ weight in the decision balance.
Mr Hunter also commented on the wording in Goostrey’s NP Policy HOU1 [“and should not individually or cumulatively harm the operation of the Jodrell Bank Radio Telescopes“] saying the “word ‘should’ does not always mean the same as ‘must’.
Goostrey Neighbourhood Plan
17/4451: Current application for 1 detached and 2 semis on the appeal site.